How to Save Our Tottering Civilization


We all know what happens when we place a large glass on a tabletop the wrong way and it starts to totter. We jump to catch it and straighten it before it falls, spills, and breaks.

Our tottering civilization needs straightening too, before it comes closer to falling and failing. 

Merriam-Webster says to totter means:

1: to move unsteadily: stagger, wobble  

2 a: to tremble or rock as if about to fall : sway  b: to become unstable threaten to collapse

Throughout humanity’s history revolutions, natural catastrophes, wars, famines, and more have buffeted us. But there are natural threats and killers, and there is human against human – the latter is, by far, the most deadly.

War is total bloodshed and destruction. Some humans don’t just protect, they invade, try to conquer, enslave, dictate, and command obedience. We’re in an unprecedented period of relative peace in today’s world, but in 2023, 28 countries are still at war. 

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Palpable verbal and active military threats are taking place by China against Taiwan, and by North Korea against several other countries. Russia’s war against Ukraine threatens the world with the use of nuclear weapons. Smaller regional conflicts, terrorist insurgencies, and civil wars could all widen.

These wars occur because one or more leaders want power, precious resources, land, or wealth. 

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, wrote in 1934:

Compare these splendid manifestations of the spirit animating this vibrant body of the Faith of Baha’u’llah with the cries and agony, the follies and vanities, the bitterness and prejudices, the wickedness and divisions of an ailing and chaotic world. Witness the fear that torments its leaders and paralyzes the action of its blind and bewildered statesmen. How fierce the hatreds, how false the ambitions, how petty the pursuits, how deep-rooted the suspicions of its peoples! How disquieting the lawlessness, the corruption, the unbelief that are eating into the vitals of a tottering civilization!

I’m disquieted, too. Most people seem to feel that way these days. Even though some live in comfort, a shroud hangs over everyone’s head – the threat of another global war.

However, the Baha’i teachings tell us that there are practical steps and principles of universal justice we can follow to remove that oppressive shroud.

We need to take two steps – first, forging the unity of all the world’s leaders and officials in leading us to peace, stopping wars, setting national boundaries, ending civil, religious, or ideological differences, and facilitating fairness and justice. They can only do that by signing an inviolable Pact.

Second, the world’s peoples must also set aside our prejudices and differences, and begin to cooperate, support each other and their governments, and be well-wishers of humankind – the ancient and renewed Golden Rule put into worldwide motion and action.

Words will not save us – only action can.

Positively though, without doubt, history shows that we’re making progress towards these cooperative ends and new beginnings. If, as Shoghi Effendi exclaimed, lawlessness, corruption, and unbelief are eating away at the vitals of civilization, so we must pay attention to the Baha’i teachings and do what we can to implement them in the real world. Our leaders have the chief responsibility – to gather their peers in a single great assemblage empowered to bring a lasting peace to all.

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The Baha’i Universal House of Justice quoted Abdu’l-Baha about this in October 1985 in their Promise of World Peace message addressed to the peoples of the world:

Concerning the proceedings for this world gathering, they must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. 

They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking — the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world — should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth.

All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant.

A universal Pact protecting all national boundaries and establishing peace, as well as threatening destruction upon any nation that broke it, would go a long way to fix the “totter” we’re all experiencing. World courts and tribunals could prosecute political criminals and despotic leaders. A world parliament could govern, making sensible universal laws. 

After all, we only have one civilization – what we make of it. We can reach unimaginable heights, like we have done in technology, or destroy it all. There’s still time to watch our grandchildren grow.



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